Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past week and a half, Dana White has announced the next opponent for Light Heavyweight World Champion Jonny “Bones” Jones.
Prior to the announcement, MMA media and fans were abuzz trying to figure out who would fight Jones next
Would Lyoto Machida get the title shot he was promised?
Would it be Dan Henderson?
Then Dana White announced that it would be none of the above. Instead, Jon Jones will coach opposite Chael Sonnen in the next season of The Ultimate Fighter. The traditional coaches’ fight is tentatively scheduled for April of next year.
In a single stroke, Chael Sonnen went from two-time failed challenger for the 185 lbs title to getting an immediate title shot at 205 lbs.
The problems with this move are many. Chael Sonnen hasn’t fought at light heavyweight in seven years. He has never actually won a fight at light heavyweight in the UFC. And to make matters worse, this will be the second time in a row that Jones will defend his title against a middleweight, all while disregarding every established light heavyweight.
For his part, Dana White seems to have been absolutely determined to create the Sonnen/Jones match up. But it seems he is hell-bent on making it happen without Chael Sonnen winning even one fight at Light Heavyweight. And never mind having him beat a top ten light heavyweight, though this seems to be a bare minimum requirement for everybody else.
The only reasonable conclusion is that Dana White knows Chael Sonnen would almost certainly lose to any of the top ten light heavyweights. Why else would he try to sneak Sonnen into a title fight with Jones not once but twice? Perhaps Dana believes that his crafty deception has fooled everyone and he won’t be forced to risk a huge money making fight to something so trivial as making Chael actually earn it.
Sadly, this is nothing new for the UFC. Ken Shamrock, Brock Lesnar, Tank Abbott and BJ Penn all got undeserved title shots that didn't make sense at the time. Randy Couture got three of them. Undeserved title shots have been plaguing the UFC since they phased out their original tournament format
Many of us sincerely believed that this was just a necessary evil to keep the UFC alive and growing but we hoped that with the UFC had grown out of it.
This naively optimistic notion has been quickly unraveling lately. First Nick Diaz gets an instant title shot in his UFC re-debut – though he lost that opportunity due to his own stupidity. Then Frankie Edgar gets an instant title shot against Jose Aldo after coming off of two straight losses. Then Vitor Belfort gets a title shot at light heavyweight for no logical reason at all.
It seems that Chael Sonnen getting this undeserved title shot is just the straw that is broke the proverbial camel’s back.
The backlash since the announcement of Sonnen vs. Jones has been surprisingly angry and loud. Many fans are vowing to boycott The Ultimate Fighter 17 and the Jones vs. Sonnen title fight. Some fans are swearing off MMA altogether. Clearly a lot of UFC fans are angry. Very angry.
For their part, the UFC seems like they could care less. They willingly toss all notions of being a legitimate sports league in the garbage again and again.
Any legitimate sports promotion should offer equal chance for all participants to become champion. In any real sport, wins and losses actually matter. The UFC just doesn’t seem interested in such trivial things.
As luck would have it, the UFC’s backsliding couldn’t have come at a better time for one Bellator Fighting Championship, the world’s second strongest mixed martial arts promotion.
Just to be clear, Bellator is such a distant second to the UFC that it is just silly to even call them rivals. Bellator is in no position to challenge the UFC’s superiority. Not even close.
But Bellator does have the cure for the problem we’re seeing in the UFC. Bellator is true to their motto, “Where title shots are earned, not given.”
In Bellator, if you want a title shot, there is no mystery about how to get it. Enter the eight man tournament at the specified weight, beat three other top fighter to win the tournament and you will get your title shot. No fighter can get a title shot without earning it. No fighter can be denied a title shot that earned it.
Some MMA fans feel like the UFC is trampling all sense of fairness by making the Sonnen vs. Jones match up. A lot of those folks will tell you that this is ruining their love of the sport. For those folks, Bellator FC provides an excellent alternative.
Bellator FC will begin airing live events on Spike TV this coming January. They have fighters ranked in the top ten in most of their weight classes. They have champions and fights in every weight class the UFC has, with the exception of Flyweight. Bellator also features sweet submissions, which is possibly the best MMA fan education concept that I’ve ever heard of. Bellator has no pay-per-views. Every Bellator event is broadcast on free TV, and all of them will be on SpikeTV. Bellator fans won’t have to answer the question, “Is this fight card worth $55 to watch?” and they don’t have to wonder what channel the fights are on.
I will continue to watch and love both the UFC and Bellator. I watch any MMA I can, but that’s just me. The UFC and Bellator are run so differently that it’s difficult to really compare them. The UFC definitely has the best fighters and the biggest events. Bellator has tournaments, is very entertaining and their competitive sports model actually makes logical sense.
I’m not going to say either one is better than the other, but I do think that Bellator President Bjorn Rebney should at least send Dana White a thank you card.